In recent weeks, the ideal length of the BBL has split the stars of the competition down the middle.
Chris Lynn was first to condemn Cricket Australia (not the first in the last twelve months) in increasing the amount of games played by each team from 10 to 14.
Then Melbourne Stars golden child Glenn Maxwell contradicted him in surprisingly came out in support of those at Cricket Australia who have so often let him down, claiming ‘it has been great’ for the Melbourne men in green.
Perhaps a little less surprising was Kevin Pieterson deciding to throw fuel on the fire, emphatically using twitter to tell his followers he predicted the drop in quality of BBL, and that it was a result of ‘greed’, attacking those in power as he has so often done over his playing and media career with a certain swagger.
Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques also voiced his opinion in agreeing that the season was ‘too long’, however take his opinion with a grain of salt, as his press conference was likely primarily used to remind everyone that his team the Sydney Sixers are still actually a member of the competition, despite having a decrease in nearly 10,000 in average crowd numbers this season to around only 16,000, as well as only managing to scrape together 8083 supporters to the SCG to see their team take on the Adelaide strikers. Maybe dropping fan favourite Lloyd Pope hurt them more than they could have realised.
Despite his publicity stunt, Henriques, Lynn and even Pieterson are all probably right. The drop in quality of BBL08 is obvious to even the most casual of fans.
Run totals are much lower than previous tournaments, with only nine innings out of 100 to date being over 180 runs, a score that was almost considered par in years gone by.
Without the Big run chases and the through the roof required run rates, the BBL loses a lot of its tension and excitement, and when teams are set 140 to win, which has often been the case this year, fans aren’t too interested in watching two relatively unknown domestic cricketers open the batting to go at a doddle of seven runs an over.
While that explains the lack of crowd experienced across the franchises this year, it’s probably not the main reason that TV numbers are down as well.
When Channel Ten lost the rights to the Big Bash, it wasn’t just a big blow for them and their finances department, but it also left a big hole in the heart of the typical avid Big bash TV viewer. So accustomed had we become to the boy band of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh, Damian Fleming, Mark Howard and others, that the decision to give the rights to Seven and Fox split up the gang. Flem and Punter went to Seven and the others went to Fox, meaning that the dream team could never commentate again with this deal in place.
While the commentary and coverage on both channels certainly isn’t bad, and mostly quite enjoyable with new faces Phil Tufnell on Seven and Kerry O’Keefe on Fox keeping things interesting, the star attraction of the Channel 10 commentary team is something that will never be replaced. People tuned in just to see the obvious chemistry, the old untold stories, and the incredible interviews (Ponting and Pietersen’s 15 minute epic springs to mind) that this team brought to our screens each and every night.
The BBL loses something without them, and is part of the reason fans are losing interest, which is rubbing off on players like Lynn and Henriques and is generating the subsequent lack of media hype.
Bringing it back to our old friend KP, these two reasons for the decline in the BBL of the lower run chases and the new TV contract are both results of the ‘greed’ of Cricket Australia. The decision to pursue a larger profit and take the television rights away from ten has ensured that their legendary commentators were split up, and the TV coverage became a little poorer, and the further decision not to invest any of that money into a larger salary cap that could have only benefited the game with more runs and better bowling is another classic example.
By further selling out to Fox in placing most marquee Saturday games on the pay-to-watch channel, the typical Saturday evening pres at the average Australian’s house (who doesn’t have Fox) loses an element of entertainment.
Chris Lynn started a very big and important debate in the context of the future of the BBL with that fateful Channel Seven interview, and it seems it’s a debate Cricket Australia are not going to win until some changes are made.